Insulation Strategy

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Re: Insulation Strategy

by sneakyracer » Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:03 pm

Hi Milz:

Layer and clothing are mostly a personal preference but most people agree in quite a few aspects.

These are my suggestions for higher altitude multi-day winter hikes / climbs based on what I have personally tried and also talked about with others and seen on the trail.

First off. You need good base layers. There are many options but I always take 2 of both tops and bottoms. Great to change into fresh base layers before going to sleep. I prefer long sleeve tops with 1/4 zips. My choice are the Patagonia Capilene 3's But there are many good options out there.

Then, you need good breathable stretchy softshell pants. You will live in these. I even sleep in mine quite a bit. Again, there are many good options. I use Mountain Hardwear Navigation pants (no longer made), they are awesome pants, stretchy but substantial and tough but breathe great. I have used them in a wide range of weather.

Then, you need a good shell or soft-shell jacket for wind and precip. Must have a hood. I do not use hard-shells in winter. There is no point. I just use a very wind resistant soft-shell with a good bit of stretch. (Arcteryx Venta MX). Much more comfortable than any hard shell I have used.

Then, Mid-Layers. This is where you take depending on expected temps. Most of the time I take a light fleece, powerstretch or R1 type. If its gonna be really cold (in the teens or less) then I take a jacket with light synthetic insulation.

Belay/Camp/Stops Insulated Jacket:
Also, what I take depends on expected low temps. If its going to be in the 20's then I just take my Arcteryx Atom SV synthetic. If I expect temps to go down to the teens or less then I take a OR Superplume Down Parka. There are MANY options here but I advise on erring on the side of warmth but get something that packs down easily and has a hood. When you are tired and have been out in the cold for a long time you need something warmer than you think.

Again, if super cold then its good to take an additional pant layer. That can be some pile pants or synthetic insulated pants like Arcteryx's Atom. I would not go too heavy on these.

So as you can see, its not that complicated.

If you want to gear up but want to save quite a bit of money the check out I have gotten some great pieces of clothing there at unreal prices. I checked right now and there are some great jackets available at bargain prices. Saw a FA Frontpoint and RAB stretch neo for cheap. Those two are perfect winter shells plus there are many other name brand products available.

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Re: Insulation Strategy

by kevin trieu » Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:59 pm

The Chief wrote:It all comes with time and experience and each individual comes to know their own set-up after several R&D excursions...

what he said.

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Re: Insulation Strategy

by luzak00 » Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:20 am

Milz wrote:
mrchad9 wrote:a fleece, a down sweater, and a soft shell and you are set. In winter add a synthetic or down parka.

Thanks, but I'm hoping I can buy less than four new jackets at once. Would the following be enough? I'm not worried about comfort in decent weather - per Ben's post, I'm sure I'd be content in a softshell and base layers. I'm more concerned about being adequately prepared if the weather gets bad unexpectedly.

*HH Warm base layer
*Capilene 4 Zip-T
MH Compressor or similar (if very cold or at camp)
*Rain-Shell (for unexpected bad weather)
*=already have it

MH Compressor, IMO, is not a winter piece. It's good into the 20's with layers.

The MH windproof fleece you mentioned earlier is, IMHO, a poor choice. Windproof fleeces are for around town, not alpine climbing.

While in the mountains, I often take one of the ~4oz "softshells." The heavier weight softshells with their stretch and abrasion resistance are great for technical routes and cragging, but the 4oz variety work better for most people.

My layering system for the winter is simple:
1) Lightweight baselayer. Should not be warm - those take too long to dry. I like Cap 2 or Phase SL.
2) Breathable fleece. I sweat a lot, so I like PowerDry over Powerstretch. Something akin to the R1, maybe the NW Alpine Spider Light Hoody if it's going to be a little warmer.
3) Shell. Depends on the temperatures I expect. Hopefully I can leave the eVent at home.
4) Parka. Something with more than 100g of Primaloft One, or 6+ ounces of down.

On bottom, I'm usually in a midweight softshell. If it's really cold, I'll wear the R1 tights underneath.

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Re: Insulation Strategy

by Milz » Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:54 am

The MH windproof fleece you mentioned earlier is, IMHO, a poor choice. Windproof fleeces are for around town, not alpine climbing.

Can you explain? Is it not breathable enough? Too heavy?

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Re: Insulation Strategy

by Sunny Buns » Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:25 am

Clothing required totally depends on the situtation you are in, and what you are doing. If you are busting your balls going uphill, then you will soak whatever you are wearing in an hour or two, then that will be useless until it is dry.

If you are doing technical climbing, going slowly, belaying, you may need lots of insulation. If you are out of shape, have some fat, you might get away with less clothing.

If you are at camp, sitting around, you may want quite a bit of insulation. I don't use insulated shells, I want each piece of clothing to have only one specific purpose, not two purposes, so I have maximum flexibility, to put on/take off what ever is needed. Thus, I only own one shell, my goretex rain jacket - it sheds wind, rain, snow, freezing rain, etc.

If you fall into a creek, you may need a change of clothes to prevent death. You've heard of that, right? :lol:

I'd think Whitney cold be fairly cold in a storm, or on a clear night in winter, but have only personally done it in warmer weather.

I think clothing is covered in "Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills". I'd start with that. Then, go to guide service websites, such as RMI, Mountain Madness, etc and study the equipment lists they suggest for similar mountains.

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Re: Insulation Strategy

by luzak00 » Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:55 am

Milz wrote:
The MH windproof fleece you mentioned earlier is, IMHO, a poor choice. Windproof fleeces are for around town, not alpine climbing.

Can you explain? Is it not breathable enough? Too heavy?

Both. They are heavy and not versatile as layers. A windproof fleece is a highly specialized piece of gear that should be taken out very rarely. A better system is a Power Dry fleece (e.g. Patagonia R1) and a shell of some sort (e.g. Patagonia Houdini). This system dries faster, moves moisture better, and can be broken down into component parts that can be used for better regulation of core temps to sweat less in the first place.

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Re: Insulation Strategy

by geagleiam » Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:10 pm

In terms of insulation the best material for thermal underwear is angora wool. It is times better than merino wool, because the fibres are hollow and thin. It makes the material comfortable, light and breathable too. This is the material I would use for a middle layer too. Perhaps two thick middle layers. For outer layer I would trust something with goose down fill 800. This is for extreme cold temperatures. If it is not too cold I would have thermal underwear made of polypropilene as a first layer, which is most highly breathable.

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Re: Insulation Strategy

by WyomingSummits » Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:19 am

Damien Gildea wrote:
Ben B. wrote:I've never been able to climb in anything more than light base and shell... I don't know how the hell you guys can layer up, even for winter climbing.

I agree. I rarely post in these kinds of threads any more. People seem determined to go against physics, physiology and manufacturers' design with their gear. I guess if their methods are based on experience then who am I to tell them they're wrong. They must be incredible specimens to be able to push sweat out through two inner layers, an insulation layer, then out through a supposedly waterproof-breathable shell layer, defying temperature gradients, molecular behaviour etc.

I've climbed dozens of routes in Antarctica in a merino baselayer + light windshell. I recently summited Peak Lenin (7134m) in a light baselayer, merino exped weight top and First Ascent hardshell, exact same items I wore on Mt Hood in June. How people climb (or hike, or whatever...) with two inner layers, sometimes more, plus a fancy double-shelled Primaloft insulation piece as a 'mid-layer' under a barely-breathable hardshell, I do not know. The only time I remember being dressed like that was summiting Denali years ago in -30C temps, and even then I realised I was overdressed and sweating.

Modern synthetic fleece - HiLoft etc - was designed the way it is for a reason, if you must use it - to trap air, yet be breathable. Let your shell jacket do the windproofing.

Same here. I wear a Terramar light longsleeve baselayer and baselayer lightweight tights. Softshell pants. A mid weight fleece or light softshell. I watched a youtube vid of what Whittaker supposedly takes to the summit of Rainier......a flippin waste of money and pack space. I can't for the life of me figure out why I would need a light baselayer, heavy baselayer, light fleece, heavy fleece, softshell, down parka, and hardshell for that climb. It's not a 2 week exposed ridge in Siberia. I rarely catch myself under 14,000ft with more than 2 layers on at once....and if the sun is out, I'm in only the ultralight terramar base. Any more than that and I'll be stopping every 2 hours to filter more water to rehydrate. I realize I run hotter than most, but I see some people at 14k in August with 3 layers on in the sun! Lunatics.....I've pushed through thigh deep drifts for hours with only my MH softshell pants and not once did my legs get cold.

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Re: Insulation Strategy

by coldfoot » Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:13 am

From the point of view of much less experience than you guys, I still pretty much agree, or at least I don't understand how anyone can walk uphill with a puffy midlayer and hardshell on. Insulating layers are for standing around, hunkering down, or riding chairlifts. Though it is likely that a guide outfit anticipates its clients will be standing around and waiting more than a small group of experienced people would be.

As a semi-digression, when I was a bad amateur bike racer, someone pointed out to me that the pros and advanced category riders always wore much less clothing than the lower categories in cool or cold weather. This isn't just experience, but physiology. The human body is about 20-25% efficient at burning calories into physical work (power), and the rest is dissipated as heat. So if you are a good racer putting 350 watts of power to the pedals, you are throwing off 3-4 times that as heat, or 1050-1400 W. If you are a lower grade racer putting out 250 W (which is still a lot compared to an untrained person), you're making 750-1000 W of heat, and you're not as warm for the same amount of clothing. The application to climbing is something we already know, people who climb faster can (and need to) wear less.


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